The weeks before school starts is when a lot of parents are considering vaccinations.
Vaccines have been used to treat illnesses like COVID, the flu and chicken post, but doctors hope patients take advantage of a vaccine that prevents cancer.
That’s why when Dr. Thomas Schiller, a pediatrician, speaks to parents about vaccines for their kids, he makes a point to educate them on HPV.
“For a typical teenager, the risk of picking up HPV is about 60%, in about 10-year timeframe,” Schiller said.
Short for the human papillomavirus, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. It can also lead to cancer.
“Most people when they get HPV don’t get sick from it. Ninety percent of people clear it, but 10% of those people, up to 6% of the population is going to go on later in life to get cancer. And it’s preventable with the vaccine,” Schiller said.
The vaccine was the first and only vaccine approved to prevent cancer.
The HPV vaccine is not new, but during the pandemic the FDA expanded its use from cervical and female cancers to include more common cancers that impact men and women.
Stacey Brill is a speech pathologist at Lee Health who specializes in treating head and neck cancer patients.
“You’re seeing about 70% of the population that have oral pharyngeal cancers, so in the tonsil, tongue base area, are directly related to HPV,” Brill said.
Many lose their ability to speak and swallow.
“It’s one of the toughest cancer treatments to go through because you are radiating such a small area of vital anatomy,” Brill said.
It’s believed the HPV vaccine will go a long way in eliminating head and neck cancers, along with cervical, anal, penile and other forms. Studies show it is nearly 100% effective.
“That’s a pretty bold claim because hardly anything is 100% in medicine,” Schiller said.
This is why doctors will tell you, it’s worth a shot.
The HPV vaccine is given in a series of shots as young as age nine.
The FDA has now approved it all the way up to age 45.